The Top Three Reasons Employees Quit

October 6, 2016 by

reasons employees quitYou have seen it play out time and time again. Someone in the workplace says, “Hey, where is Mary today?” Someone else says, “Oh, she quit.” Or equally as common these days is when Mary just doesn’t show up for work one day. No notification, no resignation letter, and maybe no ID Badge turn in.

The sad fact is that many of these resignations could be avoided by simply studying Exit Survey data and applying solutions to the top three reasons employees quit. While running my HR consulting firm from 1996-2012, we did a lot of research on resignation. It’s interesting that similar studies conducted in 2016 nearly mirror the latest data we gathered in 2011 that is outlined in this blog.


The Top Three Reasons Employees Quit:

1. Job Stress and a Lack of Work/Life Balance (40%)1

Work-related stress is a reality for most employees, but it may be surprising that stress is most prevalent when starting a new job. There are two core reasons for this: poor or non-existant onboarding practices, or the realization that the job or workplace is not as expected. The latter might be referred to as the “post-recruitment surprise,” when new employees realize their expectations for the job and/or organization will not be met. When the workload is heavier than anticipated and work/life balance is compromised from the getgo, many new recruits don’t hesitate to quit immediately. This reality is even more poignant as it relates to attracting, engaging, and retaining Millennials who are “working to live,” as opposed to the Boomers who were “living to work.”

How to prevent this type of turnover:

– During the recruitment process, give the candidate an accurate look into your organizations’: values, beliefs, mission, goals, and culture. Open your Kimono, as I say in my keynote speeches. By doing so, both you and the candidate will see if there is a mismatch between the person and the job.
– Likewise, encourage candidates to openly share their expectations, values, beliefs, and desires.
– Clearly establish and document the competencies required to perform each position and job function.
– Ensure there is a good fit between a candidate’s skills and the job requirements by conducting a strong, competency-based selection process.
– Provide an awesome onboarding experience to the candidate. For 8 awesome ideas on onboarding, see my blog post.
– Give new employees information on what to expect on their first day and beyond. Also make it clear as to what you expect from them, sharing how their performance will be managed and measured, as well as your organization’s approach and commitment to learning & development.
– Conduct new hire surveys to discover how the post-recruitment and onboarding processes could be improved upon.


2. Pay (23%)1
Managers should have a solid understanding of where their company’s wage rates are relative to other similar jobs in the community. Bad managers ignore when their employees are receiving sub-par compensation and never “go to bat” for them by fighting for wage increases and/or bonuses. On the flip side, good managers recognize that making salary adjustments to correct pay inequities will prevent the much higher cost that comes with future turnover.

How to prevent this type of turnover:

– Conduct regular and consistent salary surveys to ensure your organization’s wage rates are at or above the market average. If you discover that the wage rates are below market, make adjustments.
– Openly share the results of the salary surveys with managers and employees so they know they are being paid fairly.
– Conduct a thorough review of the wages for each position within your organization, thereby ensuring internal pay equity. If and when you discover wage inequities, correct them.
– Get confidential feedback from the employees about their pay through regular employee surveys.


3. Relationship with Supervisor (17%)1
Although listed as #3 at 17% of the resigning population, this reason is really the most important because supervisors can eliminate job stress and also ensure people are being paid fairly. Here are the three core mistakes managers make that negatively impact how they are viewed as a boss:

They do not recognize and reward good work. Since recognition is the number one driver of employee engagement, not recognizing your staff is a surefire way to lose your best people. Good managers make recognition inescapable, regularly complimenting employee achievement, as well as explaining to employees why their great work is so intrinsically important to the company and its overall mission. Recognition is the glue that retains employees. Reward is the tangible gift that highlights that the recognition took place.

They don’t treat people as human beings, but rather as company assets. When an employee realizes she is working for a manager who does not care about her as a person, she becomes less attached to that manager and organization. Viewing employees as assets implies that you “own” them and no one wants to feel owned. Great managers take the time to get to know their direct reports on a personal level, learning what their passions and hobbies are outside of work, where their kids go to school, etc.

They do not regularly meet with their direct reports to discuss Career Development, Learning, and Promotion Opportunities. People want to advance in their career, rather than feeling stagnant. Whether it’s learning a new skillset, exploring new responsibilities, or getting a title change, all employees have goals. Managers need to be keyed in on those goals.

How to prevent this type of turnover:

– Offer training to your managers on how to be a great boss, especially on how to view their employees as people, instead of human “resources.”
– Needless to say, this training should include the best practices on recognition, given its importance to employee engagement and retention.
– Offer training to your managers on what to do as a boss.
– Offer training to your managers on what NOT to do as a boss.
– Give them access to my very popular Manager’s Employee Engagement Checklist, which outlines the most important things manager’s should be doing to increase employee engagement and retention.
– Ensure that you have a system in place to track whether managers are regularly meeting with their employees to discuss career development.
– Offer employees a chance to assess their talents by providing training on how to manage their own careers, in addition to giving them access to self-assessment tools.


Now that you know the top reasons employees quit, you can see how easy it is to make simple changes that bolster retention. It isn’t rocket science. It just takes a little hard work and common sense.


Source: HR Solutions, 2011.



Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For five years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.

Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.